On October 11, Christendom College named and dedicated the Crusader Gymnasium Basketball Court, the “Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Basketball Court,” in honor of former Athletic Director Mr. Thomas Vander Woude who died in 2008 while saving the life of his youngest son.
The ceremony began with Mass offered for the repose of the soul of Mr. Vander Woude in Christ the King Chapel, con-celebrated by College Chaplain Fr. Daniel Gee and alumnus Fr. Tom Vander Woude, the eldest son of Mr. Thomas Vander Woude.
At the dedication that followed Mass, College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell welcomed all and invited Philosophy Professor and long-time friend of the Vander Woude family, Dr. John Cuddeback, to say a few words.
“We rejoice today in all the good that Tom Vander Woude did in his life,” Dr. Cuddeback said. “That good has remained with us; and so much was done right here on this court.”
Cuddeback remarked that Vander Woude set a tone for the sports program, a tone that continues to this day. Cuddeback reflected on Vander Woude’s upbringing on a farm in South Dakota, and how he brought a strong moral character to bear in all that he did. Cuddeback also noted that Vander Woude’s greatest legacy were his seven sons—five of whom attended Christendom—and their families.
Following Cuddeback’s remarks, Fr. Gee blessed the court as well as a framed image of Vander Woude. The image, which included a dedication, was then hung near the entry of the court by Vander Woude’s wife, Mary Ellen, and his son Chris, Christendom’s current Athletic Director.
“The dedication of the basketball court to my father is a great thing,” Chris Vander Woude said. “He so enjoyed his time here and touched so many lives while at Christendom by his work and sincere Christian charity for others. He taught and instructed so many in the gym and on the court, and hopefully this memorial will enable many more to learn from his life and be inspired by his death.”
Vander Woude, 66, died on September 8, 2008, in a tragic accident at his house in Nokesville, Virginia, while trying to save his 20-year-old son, Joseph, from drowning after he had fallen into the family’s septic tank. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life so that his youngest son might live and in doing so crowned a life of service to his family and those around him which can only be summed up by the words of Christ Himself, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
As Athletic Director from 2002-2007, Vander Woude also coached the men’s basketball and soccer teams. He touched many students’ lives in his time at Christendom, whether it was his textbook smile that he wore at all times or his genuine friendly demeanor that showed an interest in each and every person and their pursuits. Vander Woude was always more concerned with the type of man or woman a person was becoming than the type of athlete they were, to the extent that he would remind his basketball team to go to confession before each road trip just in case something might happen. In addition, Vander Woude always went out of his way to know and care about others’ personal situations and concerns.
He was a daily communicant and dedicated to the daily Rosary. It is no coincidence that he died on September 8th, the birthday of Our Lady, and that his funeral Mass was celebrated on September 15th, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
As well as serving as Christendom’s Athletic Director, Vander Woude was the College’s Career Development Director from 2002-05.